English, Fake News

Unrelated picture shared as that of Jhansi Rani Lakshmibai


A post is being widely shared on social media claiming that the photo in the post is the real photo of Jhansi ki Rani and that the photo was taken 159 years ago by a British photographer named Hoffman. Let us fact-check the claim made in the post.

The archived version of the post can be seen here.

Claim: Real photograph of Jhansi Rani Lakshmibai taken 159 years ago.

Fact: A blog post says that the photograph is not that of Jhansi Ki Rani. It is also substantiated through various videos and several news articles. Though there is a dispute regarding the presence of an actual photograph of Jhansi Ki Rani and various theories are questioned by historians, the photo in the post seems to be a modern picture and does not belong to Jhansi Rani Lakshmibai who lived in the 1850s. Hence, the claim made in the post is FALSE.

When reverse image search was performed on the photo present in the post, we found a Blogpost that claims the photo to be fake. Although photography studios were present in India even in 1840 and perhaps before as well, but the photograph is just too ‘modern’ to be that of the widowed Queen of Jhansi, claims the blog. At that time, such poses by Indian women were a farfetched thought; let alone an erstwhile Queen would allow for such a photo shoot, says the blogpost. The blog post even claims that the actual photograph taken by ‘Hoffman’ in 1850 was a different one. The blogpost also cautions that he had not verified the veracity of the real photograph of Jhansi Ki Rani Lakshmibai.

Taking a cue from the above Blog post, we looked for any news articles or videos that refer to Jhansi Ki Rani’s real photo by ‘Hoffman’. We found a YouTube video uploaded by ABP news titled ‘Picture of “Jhansi Ki Rani” clicked by Hoffman found’. The video claims that Vaman Thakre, a photographer from Bhopal exhibited the photo in a photography exhibition. Vaman Thakre says that he got the photograph from his friend Ameet Ambalal who bought the photo for a sum of 1,50,000 rupees. The back of the photo has the name of Jhansi Ki Rani in Devanagiri and Urdu, says the video.

However, according to news articles published in the year 2010, there were certain doubts about the original photograph of Jhansi Ki Rani. A news article says that a controversy surrounded this picture when a website named Gyandotcom claimed it to be her only ‘original’ photograph; and that it was clicked in 1850 by British photographer Hoffman. Amaresh Misra, author of ‘The War of 1857’ said he neither saw the photograph nor heard of it during the research for his book and he had never come across any reference about Hoffman, according to the article. Another news article says that the website had deleted the blogpost. Historian Mahmood Farooqui says Photography wasn’t the norm in the 1850s. But Pramod Kumar, co-curator of three photo exhibitions of the revolt of 1857, disagreed. “There were photography studios in India in 1840. There is no reason why the Rani couldn’t have been photographed”, he insisted. The article also gives a rare account of her looks given by contemporary Australian novelist and journalist John Lang who got a fleeting glimpse of her in 1854, he wrote an article in his paper, ‘The Mofussilite’ about Rani Lakshmibai.

But Rare Book Society of India in an article posted on 02 October 2011 says that the mystery of the Jhansi Rani Photograph has been solved. The article says the alleged actual photo had surfaced elsewhere as well. Photographer designer Ram Rahman came across a print in 2002, in the fourth underground edition of V.D.Savarkar’s Book, The Indian War of Independence, housed in the Teen Murti Library. The alleged actual photo was a reproduction of a postcard image believed to be that of the rebel queen.

Many facts and pictures related to history keep going viral on social media, but the illusion of them being right always remains, says a BBC news article. There were several controversies over the ‘picture’ of Jhansi Ki Rani Lakshmibai. One such was a Twitter post on 15 October 2017 which claimed that a picture is the only picture of Jhansi Ki Rani; the source of this image on the Twitter handle had been given to the National Army Museum located in Chelsea, London and a link had been given to it. Historians questioned the claims made in the Twitter post, according to the news article.

To sum it up, an unrelated picture is shared as the real photograph of Jhansi Rani Lakshmibai


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